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Kyrgyzstan: Campaigning Begins For Parliamentary Vote

This month's parliamentary elections are seen as a test of democracy for Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, who has been criticized for trying to tighten control over the republic. The vote will also set the stage for the October presidential election, from which Akaev is constitutionally barred. RFE/RL looks at the latest developments as campaigning for the 27 February vote starts today.

Prague, 2 February 2005 -- Kyrgyz Central Election Commission Chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev has ensured that the parliamentary elections will be transparent and fair.

"The main peculiarity of these elections is that they will be held according to renewed legislation which now has many new norms designed to strengthen the role of political parties in society and to use electoral procedures that ensure transparency and fairness of elections," Imanbaev said.

Imanbaev was speaking today to journalists as 427 candidates were set to start their election campaign for the 75 seats available in the new unicameral parliament. The winners will replace deputies in the current 105-seat bicameral parliament.

At the news conference, Oscar Lehner, from the United Nations Development Program in Bishkek, emphasized the need to disclose the lists of voters at poling stations before the election date.

"A citizen not only should have the right to check whether he or she is on the voter list, but also to check whether other people who should not be on the voters list are on the voter list," Lehner said. "And if there's no right for them to be on the voters list at this place, [citizens should be able to make sure] that their names are deleted. It's an international standard that voter lists are displayed at the poling stations for public scrutiny."

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev told observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission that the main challenge for the government is to compile the lists of voters.

On 28 January, Election Commission chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev said he trusted observers from the former Soviet bloc more than those from elsewhere -- apparently reflecting the authorities' concerns about Western assessments of the vote.

"I think this [CIS mission] will provide the most objective and accurate monitoring," Imanbaev said. "Unfortunately when observers come here and observe [elections] through translators, they misunderstand many things."

The OSCE has not recognized any Kyrgyz elections as free and fair since the country gained independence in 1991. Observers from the CIS, however, have put their stamp of approval on previous votes.
Kyrgyz officials, including the president, have warned repeatedly about what they call "exported revolutions."

Kyrgyz officials, including the president, have also warned repeatedly about what they call "exported revolutions" in the run-up to the upcoming poll.

Akaev said in an interview with the Russian newspaper "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that those who are trying to carry out what he termed a "velvet revolution" do not realize that such an attempt could lead the country to civil war.

Local and international nongovernmental organizations have pointed to irregularities during the preelection period:

The free-press group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has denounced what it calls a disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting a number of opposition figures.

"[On around 8 January] false e-mails were sent from e-mail addresses belonging to two opposition websites -- and -- to discredit opposition leaders," said Julien Pain, who works in RSF's Paris office. "This is really a disinformation campaign carried out ahead of legislative elections. We don't know the origin of these messages. And we are only calling on the Kyrgyz state to investigate the origin of these messages."

Pain said that one message, entitled "a faded rose before blooming," criticized opposition leader Roza Otunbaeva.

Another opposition politician, Mambetjunus Abylov, was accused of corruption in another of the messages.

Otunbaeva, Abylov and three other diplomats -- Usen Sydykov, Medetkan Sherimkulov, and Bolot Shamshiev -- had their registration to run in the elections rejected because they had not resided continuously in the country during the last five years.

Also, three opposition leaders were fined by a Bishkek district court for allegedly organizing an illegal protest rally in the capital last week. They claimed participating in the rally was their constitutional right, adding that the decisions were politically motivated.

(Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, contributed to this report.)

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